Côte d’Ivoire is still reeling from four and a half years of civil war that only ended in March 2007.
At the end of 2006, there were more than 700,000 people internally displaced by the conflict in the country, and now that there is peace, these people are moving back to their homes and need to make a living from the land once again.
Stability in the country rests on the possibility for people to return to their normal lives, which is more difficult with the rise in the cost of food.
Some 20 percent of rural families in Côte d’Ivoire are faced with food insecurity directly due to the rise in food prices. Rice is the main staple in the country, as in much of West Africa, but the country only produces 700,000 tonnes while it has to import 800,000 tonnes to meet consumption rates. In April, prices for imported rice were up to 52 percent higher than in September 2007. Maize, another main staple produced in the more arid northern and eastern regions, has also increased in price: by 75 percent in early 2008 compared with prices in July.
FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme project and received funding from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund to provide approximately 8,900 farming families with agricultural tools and supplies for dry season planting this year. These two projects funnelled nearly US$ 1 million to Côte d’Ivoire for the emergency response phase.
Funds from Belgium and Sweden will also contribute to the emergency programme, reaching more than another 14,000 families.
Recent returnees, people who are still displaced, families that had poor harvests in previous seasons due to severe weather, and those with few cash crops will be the main beneficiaries of these programmes. Seeds and fertilizers for lowland rice will be distributed to those farmers having land with a degree of water control to grow rice in the off season, while in other areas between four and six different varieties of vegetable will be supplied, including okra, hot pepper, aubergine, tomato, cabbage, onion and carrot. Some highland rice seed will also be distributed for areas with sufficient rainfall.
Hoes, watering cans, atomisers and boots will also be supplied. FAO is targeting those people who indeed have access to land, as well as to market and production systems that will ensure that when they produce a surplus, they can sell it for a profit.
To add value to the final rice product, FAO will also put in place 12 mills to be shared among village communities normally having no access to processing technology. This will also decrease post-harvest losses, and the mills can be used for corn and coffee, a cash crop, as well.